The Big 200: Access celebrates its 200th issue

From a quarterly showcase to a monthly must-read, Access has changed a lot in 200 issues – and so has the events industry. Take a trip down memory lane.

How do you contextualise 200 issues? It’s a landmark number, a number that didn’t come easily or without its own winding journey. And just as Access has evolved and changed – from a newsletter-type paper to a feature-led magazine – so has the industry it covers.

When Access All Areas launched – first with a pilot issue in 1993, followed by a Spring edition in 1994 – the European Union was just a year old. The first-ever cover feature focused on that newly formed body and its potential effect on the UK and European events industry. Fast forward 23 years and we’re facing the potential exit of the UK from the EU and wondering what new challenges an isolated Britain may have to tackle – what a difference two decades can make.

It’s not the only change Access has been here for.

From the early ‘90s, when mega-festivals like Glastonbury and Reading dominated the scene, to the noughties and beyond, the live music and entertainment industry has evolved with the rise of boutique and niche festivals that feature everything from music and acrobatic performances, to highbrow theatre and top-tier comedy.

An out with the old, in with the new approach has dominated the past two decades, starting first with the election of New Labour to government, signalling an end of austerity and the start of an almost 10-year-long celebration of everything consumer. We were spending more, doing more, borrowing more and taking more – perhaps a little too much. From the hedonistic party and club scene emerged new genres of entertainment – acid house, raves, glow sticks, questionable dance moves based around Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box… shudder – that birthed a new demand for different types of music events. Some of today’s biggest festivals like We Are FSTVL, Beat Herder, Creamfields and SW4 can directly trace their roots back to the explosion of ‘90s dance music.

And who in those days knew that the Blur vs Oasis uber-rivalry would eventually fizzle out, with both bands if not mellowing then at least settling into ‘cool dad’ territory, and Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn playing gigs and festivals like Latitude and Barclaycard British Summer Time with nary a naked groupie in sight.

We’ve also watched the evolution of feminism and gender equality. The 14, 15 and 16-year olds who listened to The Spice Girls’ pop-infused battle cry of ‘Girl Power’ are now grown up, helping shape the events industry and beyond. From Beyoncé performing in front of a giant screen with the word ‘feminist’ blazing behind her, to the open discussion around preventing sexual violence at festivals, to the rise of important voices like Attitude is Everything’s Suzanne Bull and Zibrant’s Fay Sharpe, there are issues that the events industry has bravely faced head on. Access is proud to have been there all along to help champion key issues and to have broken down barriers for the betterment of our industry.

The first issue of Access in Spring 1994

The first issue of Access in Spring 1994

Access was also around to see the launch of London’s Millennium Dome, that supposedly ill-thought government over-spend, a signal of the trouble ahead for Tony Blair and his New Labour. While we watched Labour devolve into in-fighting and leader quarrels, an American billionaire took over the Dome, renaming it The O2, transforming it over the past 15 years into what is now the most well- attended music venue in the world, surpassing even New York City’s Madison Square Garden, and pouring money into the UK’s economy.

Consumerism gets a bad rap most of the time – but The O2 stands by the Thames as one of its greatest triumphs.

The UK has become a major player on the events stage. It would be remiss of Access not to mention London 2012. The elation in 2005 when the host city was announced, that feeling of pride in both our capital and our country, buoyed us through the immediate tragedy of the 7/7 terrorist attacks on London. We, as a proud nation and industry, came back stronger and together in celebration. The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games rejuvenated our industry, which had been wounded by the 2008 financial crisis, and left a lasting economic legacy in both cities.

Yes, 200 issues is difficult to put in context. So many things have happened in the 23 years since we started – remember ‘Gangnam Style’? Remember how angry we all were about Jay Z playing Glastonbury? It’s impossible to talk about them all. Luckily, Access has been there through everything, and we have the magazines to prove it.

Thank you for reading and supporting our magazine – we can’t wait to see what the next 200 holds.

See part 2 of this feature here.

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Access All Areas